This past week has been fabulous for fans of science fiction. On Oct. 21, we experienced the day in which Marty McFly travels to the future in Back to the Future II, an event which was celebrated with a sweet video from Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd. But my favorite event of the week was hands-down the premiere of the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I am a mega Star Wars nerd, and I am so excited for The Force Awakens that I bought tickets to see it in theaters both in England and in the United States. I’m seeing it in London on December 18, then I fly home on December 19, and see it again on the 21st. I’m also a little bit nervous about its quality—will J.J. Abrams be able to recreate the wonder of the original trilogy without relying too heavily on special effects? Will this be a sequel of Empire Strikes Back proportions, or are we looking at an overstuffed reboot a la The Phantom Menace?
I don’t want to insult the prequel movies too deeply. Like most Star Wars fans born in the ‘90s, I have a complex relationship with Episodes I, II, and III. There was a time in my young life when the original movies didn’t appeal to me; they weren’t as new and exciting as the prequels, and the special effects of the old trilogy just didn’t thrill. As cheesy as they were, the prequels captured my imagination, and I watched them over and over again throughout elementary and middle school. My favorite prequel was Attack of the Clones—twelve-year-old Grace thought that Anakin and Padme’s forbidden love affair was the height of romance. As I matured, I realized that the original trilogy far outstrips the prequels in terms of quality and narrative cohesion. But I still love the prequel movies, because they’re the Star Wars films of my childhood. They’re a little campy and pretty wacky, but still fun to watch when viewed in a nostalgic context.
That being said, I don’t want The Force Awakens to be like the prequels because I’m (unfortunately) not a kid anymore. The original trilogy is brilliant because it doesn’t rely solely on special effects, but also on world-building and character development. It’s a retelling of basic hero mythology in a brilliant space opera setting. But I don’t want The Force Awakens to draw too much from the original trilogy, either.
One of the problems that plagued the prequel movies was the high expectations people had for them. I’m worried that The Force Awakens will experience similar issues—my expectations are already through the roof. It’s difficult to know what story the new movie will tell; the entire Star Wars expanded universe canon, which was established post-original trilogy through books and graphic novels, has been thrown away. The Force Awakens is in narrative uncharted territory, and it’s hard to see how it can improve upon the excellent ending of the original trilogy.
This uncertainty is compounded by the fact that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher will be reprising their iconic roles in the movie. When we see older Han Solo onscreen, will we be reminded of how cool he was in the original movies, and wish we were watching that instead? Will the original characters overshadow the newer players? Will the new movie be able to give homage to Episodes IV, V, and VI, while still establishing itself as a standalone story?
These are questions which I cannot answer until December 18, but they are ones which will worry me nonetheless. I want The Force Awakens to have the best elements of the original trilogy, and even of the prequels, but I don’t want it to be a tired rehash of the old films. There are so many sequels released in theaters every year, and I don’t want to just feel like I’m just watching the seventh part of a colossal franchise. I want to feel transported like I did when I was a little girl watching the droid battle on Geonosis, or like I still do when I see the Millennium Falcon evade the Empire’s forces by navigating through an asteroid field.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has an uphill battle when it comes to impressing me and other fans. But there is one element in its favor: we want to be amazed, and we really want to love it. Star Wars fans are passionate to the point of tempestuousness, but we’ll always be excited for a new movie. After all, the force is calling to us. We just need to let it in.